We're looking at a kitchen remodel - we'll get the first round of quotes tomorrow. And one big issue is the laundry equipment, because our kitchen is also our laundry. Our washer and dryer are about 4 years old. The washer is pretty good; the dryer has a stupid design flaw that has ruined some clothes, but I work around it. Jim suggested we should replace the set. The kitchen designer also suggested we should replace the set - with a Miele compact washer and dryer. I checked this object out. It's smaller that what we have (2.5 cu.ft. instead of 3.5); and Consumer Reports says it has twice the cycle length (95 minutes to 45 minutes).
After looking around, I've realized that most
washers and dryers on the market today, if they handle the same cubic
footage as ours, are too big for our kitchen. They're 5-9 inches
deeper, and 3-9 inches taller. Taller is important because I use them
as a working platform to fold clothes, and I'm only 5' 5 1/2" tall. A
washer top 40" high is too high for me to work comfortably on. No,
folks, bigger isn't always better. We probably don't need the 3.5 cubic
feet day-to-day, but it does mean that we don't have to take Jim's
sleeping bag to the laundromat.
So I'm looking at "compact"
washers, which handle 2.5 cubic feet more or less. These are small
enough to fit in our kitchen. There aren't many of them, and the two
top brands seem to be Miele and Bosch. Which brings me to the
evaluation part. How do I tell what to buy, and whether Miele really is a good idea? I have three sources: Consumer Reports, online
customer reviews (including CR), and the verbal evaluations of local
merchants who sell and service them.
Consumer Reports doesn't
rate small washers. It only rates the big honking 4 cubic foot models.
So all I can use there are the brand ratings, and the remarks of people
who've bought the big boys. CR isn't even rating Bosch these days; a
search brings up an old review page on a Bosch model with customer
comments. It rated a large Miele (which has since been discontinued), but it doesn't give a brand reliability rating.
Bosch and Miele, the online comments (and not just at Consumer Reports)
are deeply split. People who buy these machines either ADORE them or
HATE them. And the haters tell stories about leaky machines and slow,
rude customer service response which don't encourage me.
local merchants who sell the brands say they're both good and neither
brand has unusual reliability problems. But then, they want me to buy
from them. The guy who sells Miele did say that he doesn't service them
because Miele does all its own service. Maybe it's a good thing I've
been learning German. The woman who sells Bosch says they service them
and they don't have a lot of calls; I've been buying appliances from
this store for years, and I kind of trust them. The guy who sells both Miele and Bosch says he thinks Miele is a little better on not needing service.
I got curious and checked the user comments on the Whirlpool Duet
and the LG washer, both very highly rated by Consumer Reports.
Interesting - they too had the split between "I love it" and "I'll never
buy another one." I'm concluding that online comments on washing machines aren't as useful as I've sometimes found when researching computer equipment. With any luck on a computer review, you'll get someone who has done a detailed technical analysis.
Given that all the machines on the market today are either (a) too big for my space or (b) smaller capacity than I now have, and given that all of
them seem to feel that 75 minutes and up are an appropriate length for a
laundry cycle, I don't see any good choices. I'm actually considering
keeping the old Frigidaire, even if the dryer does occasionally tear up a sweater. On the other hand, eventually this too will die and then I'll have the same problem all over again.
But this raises the question: how do consumers (that would be us) determine
whether these expensive pieces of equipment are with the four figures
that most of them cost? Consumer Reports is the only independent
evaluator I know, and from what I read in the customer comments, even a washer they rate highly in their really exhaustive tests is as likely as not to leak water all over the floor, or tie the towels in a damp soggy knot because the load was unbalanced, or drip soap down the front of the machine.
My crappy old Frigidaire is compact, washes really well, never takes
more than 45 minutes on a load, and usually spins things really dry. I
don't see an advantage in upgrading because of the risk of getting a
Or am I letting myself by bulldozed by a very small number of vocal discontents? Any of my friends have any opinions on washing machines?